Update 4pm Valencia time: We have contacted Gerardo Seeliger asking for clarification on the alleged confusion during the voting procedure and his subsequent error, claimed to be a direct result of the said confusion. We will update as soon as we have any information.
The same people that were behind the Club Náutico Español de Vela (CNEV) and the three-year legal dispute that mired the America’s Cup are now back in action and seem to be the cause of yet more trouble at another of our sport’s top events, the Olympics!
As most of our readers certainly know, the ISAF Mid-Year Meeting, held last weekend in Italy, took a number of very important decisions that will shape the future of the Olympics as well as some of its classes. One of the most impacting decisions was to drop the windsurf from Rio 2016, replacing it with the kiteboard.
According to the voting list published by the ISAF, one of the persons that voted in favor of kiteboarding was Gerardo Seegler. First of all, it seems that even when there are only 38 people involved the ISAF can’t get their names correctly. The correct spelling is Gerardo Seeliger and he’s the representative of Spain, together with Portugal and Andorra, in the ISAF Council.
It is indeed strange that a representative of a country with two of the world’s best female windsurfers, Marina Alabau and Blanca Manchón, would vote against them and in favor of a discipline hardly practiced in the country and with no near-term potential. Marina Alabau is a five-time European champion and finished fourth in the Qingdao Olympics while Blanca Manchón is a five-time world champion and ISAF Rolex World Sailor of the Year in 2010. In addition, according to information from reliable sources, the President of the Portuguese Sailing Federation had informed his Spanish counterpart that his country strongly supported maintaining the RS:X as an Olympic class. Therefore, one would think that the Spanish vote would unquestionably be for windsurf.
However, Seeliger voted in favor of introducing the kiteboard in the 2016 Olympics and it now appears he did so, if one is to believe yesterday’s press release by the Spanish Sailing Federation, mistakenly due to the “complex” voting system. Mr Seeliger’s pedigree, at least according to his public LinkedIn profile, is impressive. He’s senior advisor at PricewaterhouseCoopers, one of the world’s biggest consultancy groups. He claims to have “significant experience in the world of sports and business consulting specifically related to Corporate Governance, event management, business and product development and general management.” He also consults to a “diverse set of companies and organizations with an interest in sports, entertainment and media.”
He was the “Executive Director of the Association of National Olympic Committees.” He served as “General Manager of the Adidas Holding Co” in Switzerland and as “Managing Director Europe for an early stage Sports Media Co. Quokka.” He also claims to be “Academic Director at Master of Sports Management” at the IE Business School, one of Europe’s most prestigious business schools. He’s also “Member of the Organizing Committee” of the Barcelona Boat Show, again one of the biggest ones in Europe and will be the Director of the ISAF World Championship that will take place in Spain in 2014.
Finally, always according to his LinkedIn profile, he has served as “President of International Olympic Finn Class, Olympic 49er Class and President of The America’s Cup CORC (Challenger of Record Committee) in San Diego in 1995.”
So, we now have to believe that Mr Seeliger, a university professor, top international business consultant, long-time sailor and sailing executive, got “confused” and didn’t understand what he was voting for. What part of the “complex” voting system didn’t he understand? He was a in room with another 35 people and when asked to raise his hand, didn’t he understand he was voting in favor of the kiteboard and not windsurf? Being a professor at a top business school I guess he must be fully proficient in English, unless they claim the voting procedure was conducted in Swahili or Northern Uto-Aztecan…
Why not use the old-age excuse my daughter would have used and state that a stray dog ate his vote?
It is strange though that the official press release from the Spanish Federation was sent only AFTER the names of the delegates and their votes were made public by the ISAF. Adding insult to injury, the Federation is now encouraging sailing fans in Spain to participate in an internet campaign (!!!) to bring back the windsurf in the Olympics.
It seems these people will never learn. Whatever the real reason for the vote might have been they could have found a better excuse. The Spanish Sailing Federation will elect a new president later this year, probably in November or December, when the mandate of Gerardo Pombo comes to an end. Let’s hope that the most serious candidate, Paco Coro, will put the interests of the sport above his personal ones. As we have seen in the last 5 years, a number of decisions by the Spanish Federation have an impact well beyond the borders of the country!
This is the statement, issued by the RFEV on Thursday. As always, the original text was in Spanish and the English translation is ours:
The Royal Spanish Sailing Federation (RFEV) announces with great regret that in the mid-year meeting of the International Sailing Federation (ISAF), held last weekend in Italy, made a mistake while voting between kitesurfing and windsurfing as Olympic classes for Rio 2016.
Spain supported and is supporting maintaining windsurfing (RS: X) in the 2016 Olympics. In fact, during the recent years RFEV has heavily invested in the development of future windsurfing promises, through the National Plan for Modernization. Moreover, the current Spanish Olympic sailing team has some of the best windsurfers in the world that have been and are all serious contenders at a medal both at the previous Olympics and the next ones this summer.
Furthermore, in other committees of the ISAF, where Spain is represented, such as the Event Committee, the Spanish representatives had voted in favor of windsurfing. These committees had almost unanimously supported the maintenance of the RS:X, although they were only advisory to the Council.
Despite this, at the last moment the Spanish representative in the ISAF Council gave his vote for the kite, an error caused by the confusion of the voting system. The federation president, Gerardo Pombo, takes responsibility for this error and wants to apologize to all Spanish windsurfers.
The windsurfing community has launched a campaign to collect signatures in order for the RS:X to regain its Olympic status for Rio 2016, a change that could occur in the ISAF Annual Conference in November. The RFEV supports this campaign and invites all interested parties to sign in favor of it, in http://www.change.org/petitions/isaf-keep-windsurfing-as-olympic-discipline